As he removed his fingerless ski gloves to ring the doorbell, Mr. Patricof, a craggy-faced native New Yorker, complained that they didn’t keep his hands warm. A man with pink skin and a round face, like a character from the board game Guess Who?, answered the door.
“My name is Alan Patricof and I’m here from New York City for Hillary,” said Mr. Patricof.
“Well, you’ve got the wrong guy,” said the man. “I’m a Republican.”
“Well, everyone is entitled to their opinions,” said Mr. Patricof.
On the next house’s stoop, he shivered and wondered why the people of Ames didn’t go south for the winter. He pondered a copy of The Des Moines Register wrapped in snow-dusted plastic in front of the door, and deduced that the people of Ames read their papers later in the day.
Russ Hoffman answered the door in an Iowa State sweatshirt and plastic clogs. Mr. Patricof bent down to pick his paper up for him.
“We come from New York City,” said Mr. Patricof. “Five of us are out here, and this particular group is fortunate because we all know the candidates personally. I’ve known Hillary since 1988 and she’s highly qualified.”
Mr. Hoffman invited Mr. Patricof in.
In a shag-carpeted living room decorated with a Christmas tree, a yellow beanbag chair and children’s toys, the two men sat on opposite couches and discussed the candidates. A frisky white spaniel jumped up to Mr. Patricof’s knee. Mr. Hoffman shooed him off and said that he liked Mr. Edwards.
“Should I tell you the difference, since I know them all?” offered Mr. Patricof. “Hillary is ready to go.” He plucked off his hat and his wavy silver hair spilled out. “She knows so many foreign leaders; none of the others have any of the experience she has had on a foreign level.”
Mr. Patricof, who has a gruff, direct way of speaking, then told Mr. Hoffman about his own foreign experience: about his visit to Alexandria, Egypt, a month ago and Paris last week, and how the perception of the United States had suffered in the past seven years. Hillary was the one to restore the credibility, he said. And besides, “The fact that we are out says a lot.”
Mr. Hoffman calmly responded that a lot of people knock on his door, and that he liked the way Mr. Obama “thinks off the top of his head.” “I don’t think I see so much of that out of Hillary,” he said.
Mr. Patricof’s phone rang, and Mr. Hoffman assured him he would not be offended if he answered it. It was his wife and the others wondering where he had gone. He had been in the living room for nearly 10 minutes.
A couple of additional minutes went by without Mr. Patricof making much progress. Ms. Patricof called again.
“They’re freezing their asses off out there,” he said, and thanked Mr. Hoffman for his time.
THE BUNDLERS REGROUPED in a cobalt Chevy van idling at the intersection of Lee and Ridgewood, and plotted their next move.
Ambassador Duke suggested that they go to town and work the shops on Main Street. But Mr. Nemazee reminded them of their instructions to steer clear of businesses.
"I almost took a fall out there,” interrupted Mr. Patricof.
“Me too,” said Mr. Nemazee.
“Very slippery,” said Ms. Duke.
After some more discussion, the group agreed to pick up a Hillary volunteer at the office and try their luck at a local retirement home. With Mr. Nemazee behind the wheel, the van drove to a railroad crossing, where they waited for a long freight train carrying logging supplies and empty animal cars to pass, then drove through Iowa State University and to the small Clinton storefront where Hollie Russon Gilman, a 21-year-old volunteer in a purple hat, short skirt and black tights hopped in the back with a bag of brown cookies for the seniors.